Space Perspective Reveals Capsule Designed to Take Passengers to the Edge of Space

Space Perspective Reveals Capsule Designed to Take Passengers to the Edge of Space
Conceptual view of Starship Neptune. (Image: Space Perspective)

Space tourism company Space Perspective has unveiled the final design of its Spaceship Neptune — a pressurised capsule that will fly passengers to altitudes nearly 32 km above Earth.

We got our first views of the cabin interior in April, and now we’re getting a look at the exterior. Space Perspective is in the midst of building the capsule at its facility near NASA’s Kennedy Space Centre in Florida, which is where the company plans to launch its balloon-assisted treks to the edge of space.

Sunrise at the edge of space

Conceptual view showing the front of the capsule during sunrise.  (Image: Space Perspective)Conceptual view showing the front of the capsule during sunrise. (Image: Space Perspective)

The design of the spherical capsule was informed by thousands of virtual flight tests and simulations, according to an emailed statement. Space Perspective collaborated with Siemens Digital Industries on the design. The capsule features reflective coated windows, a thermal control system for maintaining consistent temperatures throughout the six-hour journey, and a splash cone for water landings.

“Centuries of balloon and parachute operation and development demonstrate that always flying with the balloon from launch through landing, with traditional parachutes as a reserve backup system, is by far the simplest, safest and most robust solution,” Taber MacCallum, the founder, co-CEO, and CTO of Space Perspective, said in the statement. “Our proprietary flight system means that the capsule and SpaceBalloon always remain connected, and take-off and landing conditions are always within our control.”

Not quite space

Conceptual view of Spaceship Neptune as it's propelled by the high-altitude balloon. (Image: Space Perspective)Conceptual view of Spaceship Neptune as it’s propelled by the high-altitude balloon. (Image: Space Perspective)

Spaceship Neptune will provide for 360-degree panoramic views in which the curvature of Earth and the darkness of space is clearly visible. At heights reaching 32 km (30 kilometers), passengers will gaze out to 450 miles (724 km) in every direction.

Space Perspective’s press release opened with a rather eye-rolling claim: “Space travel is about to get safer, more comfortable, and even more thrilling.” To be clear, Starship Neptune will not reach space. The recognised boundary of space, the Kármán line, begins about 62 miles (100 km) above the Earth, which is roughly three times higher than the maximum height that will be reached by the falsely named Spaceship Neptune.

The company goes on to say that it’s “revolutionising space travel — and is a world away from rocket-fuelled space endeavours.” The latter half of this statement is correct, as the platform provides for a carbon neutral, zero-emission form of high-altitude flight.

Features to maximise safety and comfort

A view of the prototype.  (Photo: Space Perspective)A view of the prototype. (Photo: Space Perspective)

The smooth and spherical design of the exterior “accommodates a roomier interior with more headroom, and the additional safety benefits of being optimal for pressure resistance,” according to the company. The new splash cone should ensure gentle and safe landings in the water, while the reflective coating on the windows will keep sunlight at bay and keep the interior comfortable and cool. The thermal control system will work to maintain a consistent temperature as the capsule moves “through a wide range of thermally dynamic environments,” Space Perspective said.

Flights could start in two years

Conceptual view of Spaceship Neptune. (Image: Space Perspective)Conceptual view of Spaceship Neptune. (Image: Space Perspective)

The company says it’s already sold 900 tickets so far, each costing $US125,000 ($173,525). (refundable deposits start at $US1,000 ($1,388)). Flights of Spaceship Neptune could begin in 2024, and with so many tickets already sold the company is now taking reservations for flights into 2025 and beyond. A test flight of the system has already taken place, with the Federal Aviation Administration regulating the project through its Office of Commercial Space Transportation.

A team effort

Space Perspective engineers inspecting the capsule's skin. (Photo: Space Perspective)Space Perspective engineers inspecting the capsule’s skin. (Photo: Space Perspective)

Contributors to the project include design specialists Dan Window and Isabella Trani, who previously worked on the New Tube for London, the Vertical Aerospace VX4 electric aircraft, and the Hyperloop. “The team has come together to create an amazingly robust, safe, and incredibly elegant and luxurious system for Spaceship Neptune,”said MacCallum. “Simplicity and automation are the keys to safety.”

A room with a view

Conceptual view of the cabin interior. (Image: Space Perspective)Conceptual view of the cabin interior. (Image: Space Perspective)

In April, the company showed off conceptual images of the Space Lounge interior, featuring customisable mood lighting, bucket seats, a bar, and a restroom.

Riding in style

Conceptual view of the interior.  (Image: Space Perspective)Conceptual view of the interior. (Image: Space Perspective)

In May, Space Perspective announced that it had secured an additional $US17 ($24) million in funding, having previously acquired $US7 ($10) million in seed funding. The company has ambitious plans to hire around 240 full-time people by the end of 2026. The current team includes Balloon Development and Manufacturing Lead Mitzi Giles, who built record-breaking high-altitude balloons for NASA. All the pieces seem to be in place for the company to succeed, but only time will tell if its stratospheric balloons will get off the ground.